Ask anyone in the UK what comes to mind when they think of trips to the seaside and they’ll mention cold waters, arcade amusements, and fish ‘n’ chips; a meal so simple yet so well loved that tourists regularly make the meal one of the ‘musts‘ on trips to the UK – but what if fish doesn’t feature in your diet? We made a search for vegan restaurants in Brighton our top priority.
It’d been more than fifteen years since I’d last made a visit to the British seaside, and not once had Brighton been a destination I’d seen. For years my friends had encouraged me to visit the city, but the occasion had never come up. I was either too busy when groups of my friends visited, or just without a budget for the trip when the time came.
What’s So Great About Brighton?
Brighton is open, welcoming, and incredibly alternative. You can be anyone you’d like to be in Brighton; from a punk, to a poet; and in Brighton you can love whoever you choose to love regardless of sexual orientation, resulting in Brighton becoming an attractive destination for the LGBT community also. Seeing openly gay couples in the city is highly common and something we both wish was the norm everywhere. It’s a shame that we have to champion openly gay couples for doing something natural, but it’s thanks in part to the brave people of Brighton and other cities such as Manchester and London, that we see a greater acceptance across the UK.
Both vintage and new trends in fashion are another reason many visitors take day trips from London too, especially as Brighton is one of the simplest train journeys out of the capital.
The largest draw for us however is the active vegetarian and vegan community, the many vegan-friendly restaurants it has within the many tight lanes that make up the city centre, and VegFest, Europe’s biggest vegan festival.
Having spent the past few years talking online with new found vegan friends such as Jojo of Vegan In Brighton and VeganFoodQuest, we’ve been anticipating our trip and vegan culinary adventure for a while. We both felt really assured that not only would we find great vegan restaurants, but also a vegan take on the most popular of seaside dishes.
Our Search For Vegan Fish ‘n’ Chips
Following the almost two hours train journey from our house sitting assignment in Portsmouth there was only so much time for us to explore Brighton, but we gave it our best shot.
We headed straight from the station to the peddle covered beach to walk along it whilst the waves made a curious sound as they picked up and threw around the stones beneath the icy cold waters. With our trip coming at the tail end of winter and start of spring we found we had the beach almost to ourselves, with the exception of a couple, their dogs, plus a handful of morning joggers.
Walking to and photographing the curious shape in the waters that used to be the West Pier was our immediate desire and we both fell in love with the strangely majestic rusting iron remains of where a pier once stood.
It’s a shame that a monument to Brighton’s heyday as a popular holiday location for working class families from across England is crumbling away into the sea – following a devastating fire in 2003 – but part of the both of us liked the skeleton of what remained.
Following our stroll along the beach front we heading towards The Lanes, the collection of narrow streets within the very heart of Brighton where most of the best vintage shops and cafes are, plus the vegan restaurants in which we hoped to find our vegan fish ‘n’ chips – and find one we did.
Vegan Restaurants in Brighton
Following our vegan travel tips and advice we made notes using a combination of Foursquare and Google Maps of the vegan restaurants in Brighton that are most popular amongst the locals, plus the few recommendations from our friends above and the advice of other vegans on social media.
Together with our list we stumbled through the lanes and streets of Brighton and found ten restaurants and cafes with vegan foods on the menu. Several had vegan breakfasts, others just lunches, and a couple with only vegan and gluten-free cakes to choose from.
The Cowley Club
I could feel the excitement in Franca’s voice as we made our way towards The Cowley Club, a community cafe where regular events take place focusing on living green, free speech, and building a community spirit; and not only are they an important part of the community for their initiatives, they also have a great cafe where vegetarians and vegans are more than welcome.
Unfortunately for us when we arrived at the club and pushed the handle on the door we realised that it was closed. Closed right then, and closed for the rest of the day.
We’d picked the wrong day to visit.
We’d read many great reviews about the vegan food on offer that we neglected to notice that the club cafe is only open from Wednesday to Friday from 12pm until 6pm. It really bummed us out that we’d not be able to try the delicious-sounding hot food that we read so much about, but next time we visit we’ll choose the right day.
The Cowley Club 12 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4JA
The Prince George
Heading away from our disappointment in the direction of the lanes instead and we chanced upon The Prince George, a recommendation from the owner of Vegetarian Shoes (who we’d happily agreed to meet with later in the day).
Though The George is really vegetarian and vegan-friendly serving a combination of falafel based meals and veggie burgers, they didn’t have the faux fish ‘n’ chips that at the back of my mind was the only food I’d be happy eating that day.
I’m sure you know how it feels when you have your heart set on something. Nothing else compares.
The menu looked really inviting, but there were still plenty of places let for us to discover.
The Prince George 5 Trafalgar Street, Brighton BN1 4EQ
Wai Kika Moo Kau
In the heart of the lanes is Kensington Gardens, one of the most famous narrow alleyways of Brighton where several cafes can be found between the tie-dye clothing and designer boutiques.
Along this street is Wai Kika Moo Kau, or "Why kick a moo cow?". The all-day vegetarian breakfasts are highly celebrated in the veggie world and are a legend on their own, but their vegan breakfast is fast becoming a favourite too if the words of other travelling vegans is to be believed.
Around lunch time the menu will also include a number of wraps which are either vegan by default or vegan on request.
Note – whenever you see the words vegan options on a menu item anywhere, be sure to state you want them, just in case you get served the vegetarian variation.
Wai Kika Moo Kau 11A Kensington Gardens, Brighton, BN1 4AL
Only a sixty second walk away from Wai Kika Moo Kau is Iydea, possibly Brighton’s favourite vegetarian cafe and restaurant.
Though much of the vegetarian daytime menu contains several meals that contain goats cheese and cheddar, most of the menu had vegan options amongst it.
You can either choose to take one of the main meals alone or you can alternatively pair it with two sides and any of the several sauces or other toppings to finish it off.
We decided to keep on searching for our ideal seaside dish, but judging from the large crowd inside carrying sweet-looking cakes to their tables; it’s an incredibly popular choice.
Ideya 17 Kensington Gardens, Brighton, BN1 4AL
Loving Hut Brighton
Ever since our first experience with the international vegan chain, Loving Hut, in Hamburg we’ve always kept an eye out for their many branches across Europe; and luckily for us there was a new small cafe in Brighton.
Not far away from The Crowley Club, this small Asian-focused kiosk has only enough seats inside for around ten people maximum, and judging from the menu we saw that many of the rice and noodle dishes we’d expect were featured.
It’s not the biggest place, but it has a small community cafe feel about it that – had we not a quest to finish – it would have quite possibly have been one of our top choices, simply because we can rely upon them to always make fantastic vegan Asian food that we miss from our time in the East.
Loving Hut The Level, Saint Peter’s Place, Brighton, BN1 4SA
South of the lanes is an Indian restaurant that not only serves traditional vegetarian dishes from across the Indian subcontinent, but also a few vegan alternatives. The reason being that most vegetarian dishes come either with some milk in, or ghee (purified butter), or paneer (a type of cheese).
Quite understandably there’s no vegan fish ‘n’ chips on the menu of this vegetarian restaurant, so we kept on moving. Part of us was almost convinced to stay however, as the all-you-can-eat buffet is only £4.95.
Bombay Aloo 39 Ship Street, Brighton, BN1 1AB
Food For Friends
Wandering closer towards where the city meets the seafront we came across one of the most beautiful buildings in Brighton. This uniquely round-ended building with its many curved windows somehow manages to stand out between the many beautiful aged buildings that surround it and the bright whiteness of its plaster is almost magnetic.
When people say that "image is everything", they must have Food For Friends in mind.
It’s clearly a vegetarian and vegan restaurant for those with slightly more in their pockets than the two weary travellers that happen to write this blog, but there’s no doubt that if we lived near by and had a monthly income to support us, we’d be regular visitors of this outstanding restaurant.
Can you tell I was a little in awe of its beauty?
Looking at the menu as another couple wondered in, we were almost convinced by the delicious smells that poured out from the open door. The menu itself is the result of more than thirty years of practice by the restaurants owners, and you can tell by the items upon it that they’ve put a lot of experimentation plus trial-and-error into making delightful sounding meals.
Had our search ended here there’s every chance I may have been convinced to share a plate of ‘Colcannon potato cake with carrot and star anise purée‘ with Franca.
Food For Friends 17-18 Prince Albert St, Brighton, BN1 1HF
Terre a Terre
Another fine-dining vegetarian restaurant with more than twenty years of experience, Terre a Terre is proud of not only their award winning food, but also their ethical and sustainable practices with food sourcing, food waste management, recycling, and commitment to sharing as much knowledge as possible about good food and the great things it can do when prepared correctly.
Terre a Terre offer a takeaway service and a selection of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free cakes should you wish to sample some of their veggie goodness, but most people seem to visit, stay, and enjoy the full a la carte menu which features several vegan options, with main meals starting at around £15.
Again, we’d have been quite happy to eat here had we not hit the jackpot only ten metres down the road.
Terre a Terre 71 East Street, Brighton, BN1 1HQ
We Found Vegan Fish ‘n’ Chips!
Yes, at Vbites on East Street we found vegan fish ‘n’ chips on the menu and immediately put in our order for one plate, plus another option called ‘Vegan Pulled Pork‘, something neither of us had ever tried before.
When both plates arrived we must admit we were a little downtrodden about the size of the portions we’d been offered considering the near £10 per plate price we’d paid, but understood that considering the nature of the ingredients (faux meats typically aren’t cheap), it wasn’t all that much more than we’d expect.
The taste however, was brilliant – at least for me. Franca wasn’t exactly disappointed, but didn’t feel any wow factor either. My own taste buds on the other hand were transported back several years to the last time I ate fish ‘n’ chips, pre-veganism.
The batter was crisp and crunchy, and the taste – just like the real thing. I know that the opinion on meat substitutes is split in the vegan world between those who don’t trust the texture and those who adore it and use it with every meal, but for me personally it was great. I loved the fish-like flavour provided by the seaweed used to wrap the tofu-like substance that the batter surrounded.
Paired with sweet potato fries, I could have quite happily eaten the same meal twice, though I wouldn’t say following the meal I was either stuffed or left hungry. The ‘pulled pork‘ wrap was especially interesting, and the BBQ sauce that it was served in had a great tang too (Franca much preferred this).
Inside of VBites you can also purchase a few items of fresh bakery, plus a number of products from the VBites range of faux meats, cheeses, plus other foods such as yoghurts.
VBites 14 East St, Brighton BN1 1HP
Other Vegan Places of Note
Having accomplished our mission of finding what I like to call, tofu ‘n’ chips, we headed north again towards the lanes where we’d have the chance to meet with Robin, the founder of [Vegetarian Shoes]( "Vegetarian Shoes, Brighton"), who told us all about his journey from recycling old tires into shoes in the Nineties for his friends, before opening the very first Vegetarian Shoes shop on Gardner Street.
Along the same road were two other great vegan places of note owned by the Infinity Foods group.
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Infinity Foods & Infinity Foods Kitchen
Infinity Foods is a wholesale grocery store with a great ethos for providing great bio food and all of those little magic superfoods that a life of gluten-free, vegan, raw vegan, and healthy living requires.
Their second property is called Infinity Foods Kitchen, where veggie breakfasts feature the most, with typical cafe lunchtime options like sandwiches and wraps also available. Looking in from the outside it seemed really nice and somewhere we’d have no hesitation in choosing had we not already eaten.
The last place on our list we’d visited earlier in the day, but had decided to return to after we’d eaten. Unfortunately we failed to do so, but our initial impression of the gelateria called Boho Gelato was good.
If we’d had the time to return we’d now love to tell you that the vegan gelato there is amazing, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be the case so we’ll have to trust the words of our friends that the chocolate raspberry ice cream there is fantastic. Hopefully there’ll come another time to allow our taste buds to try it for themselves.
Is Brighton Vegan Friendly?
The answer to that is an enormous, YES. We were so presently surprised to see how many vegetarian and vegan restaurants are open in Brighton, even though it’s not the largest of cities.
It’s so clear to see why all of my friends have been recommending Brighton for so many years, and highly understandable why tourists all year round are visiting to see the beach, the lanes, and all of the boutique shops to be found in every direction.
Maybe you should make your first visit to Brighton this year too?
Have you visited Brighton before?